A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Fostering an Attitude of Gratitude

by Philippa Winch

by Philippa Winch

Over the past year our country has seen a number of changes. Some of the biggest changes have come through disasters such as the Christchurch Earthquakes and the Pike River Mine disaster. However there have been a number of other changes in people’s lives as they cope with such things as the on-going recession. For many people it has been a time of great stress. So how can we foster an attitude of gratitude despite the circumstances and why is this important?

There are already a number of things that we do as Catholics in our daily lives that assists us in giving thanks. Giving thanks at mealtimes in the form of saying grace is one of these things as are the prayers that we say in our own personal time with the Lord. Paul encouraged this from his prison cell in Rome when he writes to the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

We give thanks when we come together with others at church in singing hymns or even in the Christian songs we may sing to ourselves as we go about our various tasks that we need to get done in a day. Psalm 95:2 states, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.” Music has the wonderful ability of being able to lift us beyond our circumstances; it can brighten our gloominess and can speak to us at a deep and powerful level.

By entering into Eucharist, we are giving thanks to the Lord for his sacrifice for us and are reminded that we are able to follow in his footsteps by reaching out to others. Often using our skills to assist those around us at the time of disaster allows us to take our mind off our own problems and allows us to recognise that we have the capability of working towards improving not only our own circumstances but those of others as well. In fact in 1 Corinthians 15:57 – 58 Paul encourages this when he announces, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know your labour in the Lord is not in vain.”

A wonderful example of people reaching out to others was the huge task that the Christchurch Search and Rescue team undertook during the days after the February Earthquake. These people, who themselves had been personally affected by what had happened worked tirelessly to relieve the plight of others. A few of them then went on to Japan to help there when the earthquake and tsunami in Japan came hot on the heels of the Canterbury disaster. There are a number of other unsung heroes whose stories came to light as the event unfolded.

So what else can we do as families and individuals in order to count our blessings in the face of it all?

As a family setting up a Blessings Basket can be a useful idea. Often on special occasions such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas, people send us cards. We also receive cards when we have been affected by tragedy. Putting the cards in a basket on the dining room table is often an important reminder for us of the love and support that surrounds us. By choosing one card each night at dinner then at grace saying a special blessing for the person or family whose card has been selected, helps us to enter into that circle of love. We are able to take the time to be thankful for the blessings of others and in turn do something for someone else.

Setting up a Thankful Box is a great way of being able to count our blessings. Having the thankful box in a place that is easily accessible with strips of paper next to it, will allow you and other family members to write down things they are grateful for. These are then placed in the box. Once a sufficient number of recorded blessings have accumulated, take the time to read the various ways the Lord has provided for you as a family or individual along the way. Indeed in Proverbs 10:6 we read, “Blessings crown the head of the righteous.”Thankful Basket

Gratitude Journal is another healing tool. Each day take the time to write at least one good thing per day in it. You’ll be surprised how your one good thing will eventually turn into a whole list of blessings as your focus changes from the negative to the more positive things in life. You will also soon realise that what we think about helps shape our reality. Paul implores us, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”All these things will become a valuable part of your Gratitude Journal.

gratitude journal

Gratitude journal

If you have young children still at home, play the Gratitude Game. As a family, take it in turns to name at least one thing that you appreciate. The object of the game is to go around the circle as many times as possible without passing. This game is a fun way of reminding family members what they have to be thankful for.

In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we read, “Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” By fostering an attitude of gratitude not only are we recognising God’s sovereign hand in the situation we may find ourselves in but we are placing our trust in his ability to provide for us. In turn, we are developing the resiliency we need to get over the obstacles in our path. After all, in Jeremiah 29: 11 we are reminded, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

With God on our side, there’s always something to be thankful for.

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